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Diary - May 2006
Wednesday 31 May
Russell Slade loaded the revolver with a single bullet, spun the cylinder, raised it to his head and hopped onto an Easyjet to Faliraki. It must have been the turbulence that did for him.
The Mariners boss has lost his game of Russian roulette with his GTFC career despite taking a holiday to try and forget the massive failure of his team to compete in any meaningful way during last Sunday's fourth division play-off final against Cheltenham. Exasperated with Sladey's brinkmanship over signing a new contract, Town chairman John Fentydome asked the manager to specify just exactly what it was that he wanted, which the manager then did, shortly before packing the suntan lotion for his head and flying off on his jollies. But if Mr Russ was hoping his absence would make him temporarily unsackable, he will now be as disappointed as a Grimsby fan last Sunday night, as Chairman John quickly added: "Either way, we need to make a quick decision on who is going to manage the club next season", and at around 13:50 BST today GTFC announced that Slade's two-year tenure at Blundell Park was over. This one always looked unlikely to run for very long a bit like most of Town's players at Cardiff.
Arriving belatedly on the scene like an obese CID officer after one too many doughnuts in the morning, the Grimsby Telegraph has picked up the Slade-to-Yeovil rumours that were picked up two days ago by the Western Daily Press despite a patent lack of any publishable material to substantiate them. Detective-Constable Telewag scrawls the name of Woking boss Glenn Cockerill onto its whiteboard list of suspects as "another possible target" as Slade's replacement, but the only evidence our bumbling but amiable copper seems able to muster is that "Cockerill's parents still live a stone's throw from Blundell Park". It's going to be a long, slow summer, isn't it.
Inarticulate fool and former Mariners full-back Graham 'Very Much So' Taylor has stepped back in to the discussion around Town's performance in Cardiff, which could barely have represented a more comprehensive surrender had Justin Whittle stepped cagily towards the Cheltenham team holding aloft a white flag. Taylor began his managerial career with the Mariners' semi-final opponents Lincoln, and at that stage of the play-offs his prior involvement with both clubs afforded us the unique insight that "I don't know much about the players because I have seen very little of them". In the run-up to the final VMS nailed his colours to Cheltenham by declaring that his passion for John Ward outweighed his friendship with the Mariners, and the one-of-a-kind pundit has now handed some further observational gems to the Robins' local paper. "I thought that Cheltenham did very well," he tells the Gloucestershire Echo. "In the first half, it was not the best of games and it was very tight. I thought Cheltenham moved the ball about more and were the better side." Somebody remind me not to listen to Radio Five Live during the World Cup.
Time for another dip into the Diary's murky inbox, where we put in our thumb and pull out words of praise for an already widely praised member of the CA team. "Another magnificent match report from Tony Butcher," writes Steve in response to TB's account of Cardiff. "Witty, accurate and entertaining, as always. Please pass on my thanks for what he has contributed to a memorable season. He truly captures the joy and frustration of a life supporting GTFC and reading his reports has often been more enjoyable than the matches. Perhaps that tells us as much about Sort It's tactics as it does about TB's considerable talent." Quite so, Steve; Tony could hardly be accused of taking the direct route, could he? "Thanks again, and I hope he returns next season (TB that is, not Sort It)." As it happens, your man has expressed a feeling of jadedness several times in the past few months, and the CA editors live in fear that he will announce his retirement at any time. How can we persuade Tony to carry on reporting? What innovations might keep him interested enough to persevere in his magnificent work? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
Today's final item of email to the Diary comes from Robert Hall, who writes: "I'm emailing you to alert you to a new football news aggregation website. Please see: [url removed]. The service filters the news into different 'feeds' for viewers who want news on specific topics. A user can also create a free account so they can create their own feeds based on their own criteria. We have sent you an email because we would like to start displaying news from your website. However, if you want to be featured in our service, we require that you provide a link back to us from your website. The image we would like you to link can be found here. [url removed], but if you'd wish to make an image yourself then feel free." Oooh, thanks. How about this one?
Tuesday 30 May
Just as the Diary was winding down for a lazy World Cup summer, where the only real Diary work would be googling the names of Sladey's trialists to keep track of which one is the African midfielder who played twice for Bordeaux in the 200304 season and which the newly released winger-cum-forward from Doncaster Rovers reserves, we could be looking at a hunt for a new manager. With the Mariners not having announced last Monday after all that Mr Russell Slade had signed a new three-year contract, the boss's future remains as up in the air as a large helium balloon and Positive John Fenty is losing patience. "We've failed to agree terms with Russell so we're left in a situation where that contract is null and void," the chairman has told the BBC. "We've asked Russell put forward what does he want [sic]. We want him to tell us so we can make a decision about who is going to be the new manager." Last week's rumours linking Slade with a move to third division Yeovil have coagulated into a story in the Western Daily Press revealing that his contract expires tomorrow and he's off on his jollies. "If things are right and we can thrash things out, I'll stay," says Slade. "There is only one small detail that needs addressing." In the immediate term Town fans can breathe a sigh of relief with the news that Hoof Alexander has just been appointed at Peterborough.
Oh, all right if we have to. Two of your emails today return to the subject of Town's awful paralysis in Cardiff on Sunday. The first is from TV celebrity Al Wilkinson, who writes simply: "I'd like to congratulate the Diary for being arsed to turn up the day after certain other individuals couldn't. Thank you. The minute spent reading Monday's Diary was better than any in the 99 on Sunday." The second is a somewhat longer missive from Sibbo, and it goes something like this...
Hi Diary. Like many Town fans, I'm on a bit of a low at the moment. So decided to turn to CA, fully intending to write of my feelings on the Millennium mess. After reading the Diary I found that I could only echo everything written. It wasn't so much about the day but the future. Yes, the players that will remain and who will be the man in charge?
When Russell Slade first came to Grimsby, two seasons ago, he had little to work with, either player-wise or financially. Early games showed promise but had little cohesion. Suddenly after a run of five or so away defeats, Russ changed the team's style of play but persevered with his three at the back lark. That, I think, was his major error. Along with faithfully sticking to Anthony Williams in goal. The Town fans can be cruel to someone they dislike but they're fairly good at spotting a good player. And just as good at spotting a bad one! Let's face it: Paul Simpson soon sorted it and Carlisle ended top of the pile. Not that I'm suggesting one player makes such a difference. There'll be a few tears shed if Mildo heads south though. Some of Russ's acquisitions excited whilst others made you wince. The jury remained out on the rest. Last term our season petered out like a damp firework. The only thing keeping interest towards the club was optimism because it's our club and we want it to succeed.
The start of this campaign saw new players come in and as we all lamented the passing of Thomas Pinault, I doubt anyone gave him a thought at Cardiff. Players move on and sure enough someone will take the place of ones moving on during the close season.Will they be as good? Well who knows? Fact is, this last season has been a vast improvement from the one previous. Derby, Spurs, Newcastle are all memories to savour.
To me Russell Slade has stamped his mark on Grimsby Town Football Club and of all the people moving on, I hope he's not one of them. Yes, I've not always agreed with his style of play, but I've seen enough to know he can put out a footballing side and with the experience he's gained he can improve further. What are the options? The success of our youth team gives cause for optimism so we don't have to feel all doom and gloom. Whatever happens during the next couple of months, I'll be back to watch the next instalment of GTFC next August, because it's my club and I want it to succeed. See you all there of course.
What do you reckon, then? Has the real Shim Sladey stood up as far as he can, or do you dread the thought of another new Town team starting from scratch? Email email@example.com with your thoughts.
Match-fixing is one of those things one normally associates only with corrupt Third World dictatorships such as Italy, so it will surprise many that a game recently played in England's fourth division could be investigated by the FA following a dodgy goal and some interesting goings-on in the Asian betting markets. Considerably less surprising, however, is that one of the teams that may be involved is Boston 'Brown Envelopes' United, whose place in the Football League was attained during a season that turned out to have involved 'irregular payments' to their players. The Daily Mirror speculates that the Slippery Pilgrims' visit to Carlisle Five on 25 March is the match causing concern, with huge amounts of money having been staked on the Cumbrians to win by at least two goals, and the last of their goals in a 4-2 win being scored while Boston's keeper had gone up for a corner. Had Town's county cousins not been involved, the Diary's world-weary shoulders would already be shrugging sceptically, but as things stand the Diary's only surprise is that, given their various other misdemeanours, Boston never considered match-fixing sooner. "It is quite obvious that whoever has started this rumour has a grievance against this football club," rages BBEUFC chairman Honest Jon Sotnick. You'll have to narrow it down a bit further than that, Jon.
Monday 29 May
As Monday dawns clear and bright over Leicestershire I was fully expecting to be waking to a new era in the history of Grimsby Town. However, as the mists of alcohol-fuelled sleep clear, I find I am hurting. As I struggle to express this in words I have turned to a dictionary for help.
pain bodily or mental suffering
anguish great mental or physical pain
depression low spirits, dejection, despondency
hurt feel pain or distress
As I looked to define my feelings I suddenly found other words that may be of use to us all.
faith trust or belief without proof
future a time to come
hope expectation of something desired
At this moment the pain in great, the hurting could go on for months but the future starts today and our faith is undimmed.
It's not often the Diary begins with an email, but today the words of Keith Falla, which appear above, have a consoling resonance about them. Keith is right. Breathe deeply and take stock, reader; retain your pragmatism and stoutness of mind; for as our Grimbarian forebears braced against the icy Arctic gales that lashed their trawlers in the wild North Sea, so we Mariners must be stoical in the face of adversity, rising each day to meet the cruel storms of circumstance and fate with calm resolve. It must be said, though Town were absolutely crap yesterday, weren't they?
The one thing worse than finding a worm in your apple is, of course, finding half a worm, and perhaps the only experience more painful than abject failure is reading rubbish reports about your abject failure the next day. Mike Anstead of the Guardian appears to have forgotten that the play-offs happen every year in reporting: "Clubs of this size rarely have the opportunity to play at such a prestigious venue", while the Times' Tom Dart has somehow convinced himself to award five out of ten to Andy Parkinson arguably Town's only outfield player who bothered turning up yesterday and eight out of ten to shitehawk referee Paul Taylor. A better reflection of the game, remarkably, is to be found in right-wing scumsheet the Sun, despite its reference to Parky being denied "a blatant penalty" and setting the word 'cross' in bold upper case for no reason at all unless it's a subtle way of conveying the way Town supporters felt after the match.
So the season having ended at last, and Town having completely bottled it like at Macclesfield, we're more or less assuming that the 200607 campaign will begin with at least Steve Mildenhall, Jones the Stick and Luton's Michael Reddy having moved along to pastures less fishy. The club's stock of six-foot-seven defenders will be halved this summer if any or all of the Stick's rumoured transfers to Wolves, Crewe, Doncaster, Hibernian should come to fruition, while the expected south-westerly departures of Mildew and the Hatters forward are all too cruelly summarised in today's Bristol Evening Post, which rubs its paper hands in glee at the increased likelihood of Reddy going to Ashton Gate and Town's brilliant and adored goalkeeper joining Bristol Rovers in the wake of the Mariners' shocking failure in Cardiff. What about Sladey, then? Is he still going to sign that new contract or will the five or six new players promised by Positive John be brought in by Hoof Alexander?
Much as the Diary admires the Grimsby Telegraph's 'blank' front page today a bold editorial decision signifying the emotions of several Grimbarians at this time one of the things I enjoy most about Guest Diary's, er, guest diaries on Fridays is the sense of perspective he brings to bear on the painful but hardly life-threatening experience of supporting Grimsby Town. In the email GD has sent about Cardiff he does likewise. "I saw at least three Town players mum-waving as they came out of the tunnel," he writes. "And I'm glad they did even if it caused us to lose the game. We can get promoted another season, but you've only got one mum." There you go, eh? "By the way," he adds, "I was much cheered to read trawler's version of 'Your Song' on the CA Shoutbox. A very worthy effort and much better than the mawkish original." Indeed, and speaking of the Shoutbox, 'haddocksrock' has remarked that the Millennium Stadium seemed to have only one ball. This may have been the same number as Hitler, but it is also one more than most of Town's players could boast yesterday.
Friday 26 May
If your Guest Diarist was a woman he definitely wouldn't fancy a date with Trevor Francis. A TV football pundit who manages to be both truculent and mournful at the same time, and who once admitted on some ill-conceived Radio One show (where famous people played at being DJ) that he couldn't possibly contemplate a trip to the cinema because he is incapable of sitting still for two hours at a time. Last night, though, he set me thinking when he said: "Jenas must be glad to be awarded the decision because he seemed to have run out of ideals." It's a very young age he is to have run so low on those. Why, Joan Baez is 65 and still full of 'em, spending last night hoisted up a tree singing: "No, no, no nos moverαn. No, no, no nos moverαn." And I hope that Town have got a few ideals left to live up to on their big day on Sunday. Passing. Now that's an ideal ideal I reckon, don't you? Patience. Another virtue worth having. Keep it tight and the game will open up for us sooner or later. Faith-keeping. Now that's one for us fans to bear in mind. Magnanimity in victory. Yeah, right.
But whatever happens in Cardiff, this has been a much better season. Not just because we won a few more games and finished fourth, but because we looked more like a team of actual Town players. The spine (as these daft lads on the telly like to call it) is strong the keeper, the centre-halves, Bolland in central midfield, and the front pair. Mr Fenty should do everything possible to keep them all at the club. The performances merit going that extra mile, and the fans appreciate the continuity. The kids need heroes and the old-timers like me need to be able to recognise their own players. They might not be the best, but they are the best we are going to see at Blundell Park in the near future.
The Grimsby Tellywag, a couple of days ago, reported that Cod Almighty would be getting its three hundred and fifty quid wodge back from the FA after the successful Jones appeal. But as was said at the outset, this money will be ploughed back into the club as shares. So it was nice to hear confirmation from CA's Pete Green today that this will be the case. Meanwhile, Channel 5 at midnight is normally a slightly scary place. You'd be much more likely to find me nodding to Jools Holland on BBC2 around then. Nodding or nodding off is entirely dependant on what your Guest Diarist has been imbibing earlier in the evening of course. But tonight is an exception, as resident Cod Almighty poet Al Wilkinson will be reciting his play-off final poem to the inarticulate rotundity that is John Barnes on his Football Night programme. Be there or be square, as Joan would have put it.
The two managers have been chatting to BBC Sport. Mr Slade is reported to be as garrulous as ever, babbling about postponed dates with destiny, while John Ward has explained: "It's not an occasion to enjoy yourself or wave to your mum or wife in the crowd." His team were, however, allowed to wave at their imaginary mums during a familiarisation tour around the stadium on Wednesday, as Mr Ward explained to the Gloucester Echo: "They waved to their imaginary mums yesterday because I don't want them waving on Sunday." It is not known what the Mariners' policy is towards stadium-based mum-waving. Enjoy the match whatever happens, and don't forget to wave to your mum. See yer.
Thursday 25 May
If cats could talk to each other, what would they say about us? The Diary has often passed an entire morning contemplating this matter, interrupted only by a frenzy of hungry clawing at my legs. Today, as a dutiful Mariners supporter, I have been more concerned with what Cheltenham Town are saying about us, and their quite long-serving captain John 'Cousin of Judy' Finnigan is the first to have broken the silence. While other observers have been tipping GTFC to get the better of the Robins this Sunday on account of having taken six points of them in the league this season, Finnigan believes, for reasons possibly connected with the positions of the moon and the stars, that the Mariners' superior record somehow makes them less likely to prevail in Cardiff. "Can they beat us three times in one season?" the Cheltenham midfielder wonders aloud to the Teamtalk website. "It's always difficult to do that." When they've already beaten you twice, though, John, they only need to beat you once more, which is three times less difficult.
The Grimsby Reaper has struck again and Hoof Alexander's reign as manager of Lincoln has come to an end in the wake of the Imps' defeat against Town in the play-off semi-finals. Alexander is, of course, far from the first manager to have had his head neatly severed by the Reaper's keen blade immediately following a spill against the Mariners in this he sits in the exalted company of Steve Bruce, Gordon Strachan and George Burley but cast back your mind to the 3-0 win over Lincoln just after Christmas. Following this match Hoof was temporarily placed "on leave" at Sincil Bank, which would appear to make him the first professional football manager ever to have been Reapered twice. The pain freaks of Peterborough are already thought to be reviving their interest in route one, while an unofficial Lincoln site, interestingly, reckons the fans' choice to replace Big Hoof might be Cheltenham manager (and former Town forward) John Ward.
GTFC have now shifted a slightly less embarrassing 12,000 tickets for Sunday's fizzy drink marketing convention in Cardiff, with the club's official website insisting that the final figure could reach 15,000. To address the demand, the club shop is staying open until eight o'clock tonight and tomorrow night. If enough people are interested, they might even open on Saturday as well!
That's all from me until south Wales, then, as tomorrow you will be delivered unto the weekend by the safe hands of Guest Diary. I leave you with the news that after Town's sensational cup victory against Tottenham earlier this season, the club's sponsor Young's was seriously considering an advertising campaign based on the slogan "Who Is The Big Fish Now?" Let's inflate that haddock again on Sunday, eh.
Wednesday 24 May
As you will no doubt be aware by now, the Mariners' star striker Gary Jones has had the red card he received against Lincoln last Tuesday overturned, quashed, torn up and generally rescinded by the FA's appeals panel, freeing him to play in this Sunday's monstrously significant play-off final against Cheltenham. With the heroic Lump back in the fold, the Robins being yet to record a first ever victory against Town, and Sladey's giants having won both previous encounters between the sides this season by an aggregate score of four goals to nil, there can only now be one possible outcome from the match, can't there.
Just as important as who's going to be stepping out onto the legendary Cardiff turf, which is steeped in literally five years of footballing tradition, is the question of who's going to be watching. Have you got your ticket yet? "Because we are not able to guarantee postal orders after today, we are no longer accepting online or telephone orders," announces Town's official website. Earlier on today, the OS said it would stop selling tickets online at 2pm, and the time now is 12:34pm, so that's a bit of a turnaround really. Well, not a turnaround more a sort of comedy walk like those Olympic fast walking people do when they, um, do their fast walking. Er... and I don't think the OS even mentioned stopping phone sales earlier on, but I can't quite remember. Sorry. This paragraph is going nowhere fast. Unlike the fast walkers.
So just how many will Town take down the A180, then the M180, M18, M1, A42, M42, M5, M50, A40, A449, M4 and A48? The Grimsby Telegraph has just reported that Town's ticket sales are about to "crash through the 10,000 barrier", but with 25,000 having been issued to Blundell Park and the club having taken more than 30,000 to the Football League Trophy final against Bournemouth in 1998, the barrier is not so much being crashed as apologetically leaned on by a limping septuagenarian with a shopping trolley full of tripe and self-raising flour. Don't say I didn't warn you about the prices. What's that? The bars at the Millennium Stadium don't sell bitter, and the lager costs three quid a pint? Shush! Everyone will end up staying in Grimsby and watching it down the pub! Oh.
Tuesday 23 May
The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls/And tenement halls/And whispered in the sound of silence. There is a small possibility that Paul Simon may not have had Grimsby Town Football Club in mind when he penned these lyrics, but never have they been more apposite than today, as a deafening hush holds sway over Blundell Park regarding the big announcement that was supposed to happen last night but didn't. The rumours were a-flyin' that Positive John Fenty had secured £9m of funding towards the Fentydome, Mr Russell Slade was to sign a new three-year contract or Young's was about to extend its sponsorship, but sources close to the Diary suggest that "well-known comedian Gary Marshall" turned up and couldn't get in because nobody knew who he was.
If somebody had told you at 5:00pm on 19 March 2005 that the referee in the game of football you had just watched would be placed in charge of your team's promotion play-off final at the end of the following season, you would most likely have hurled yourself off the top of the Smiths/Stones/Findus stand in despair at the apparent determination of Fate or the FA to smash into atoms any hopes you ever cherished of future life happiness. It's a good job you've had 14 months to calm down, really, because Paul Taylor the man who was to quality refereeing what Carl Boyeson was to, um, quality refereeing has been entrusted with officiating this Sunday's decade-deciding encounter with Cheltenham. In mitigation, he wasn't so bad against Northampton the other week but was this merely the false sense of security-inducing lull before the storm of Town torment to follow, type thing? Time and your tears will tell.
What do this weekend's opponents make of us? In a really bad AZ of Grimsby, the Gloucestershire Echo reports that GTFC sponsor Young's employs 29 per cent of the local population. Based on 2001 census figures for the number of people living in Grimsby and Cleethorpes combined, this would mean around 34,500 people toiling in the firm's local seafood processing works but Young's's's website begs to differ, giving a figure of 3,000 for the combined workforce in its Grimsby and Hull factories. If the standards of journalistic research in Cheltenham are matched by the work of the local football club's scouts then we can look forward to the Mariners issuing them with a proper spanking come Sunday while the Robins' tallest defender man-marks Andy Parkinson.
Time for today's T-shirt news, and loads of the buggers were posted out yesterday, so if you've ordered one of the new designs, then it should be with you soon. Cod Almighty's fashionwear supremo Andy Holt has also asked the Diary to announce this. "If the T-shirt you want is not currently available in the size you require (M, L or XL), that is because it is out of stock. We will be ordering more stock, it just might be a while until we do. Due to new minimum order limits imposed by our printers we aren't able to place orders as and when we require. However, if you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you want to order, we will email you back when we have more stock. Can't say fairer than that." Indeed. Do I get a free 'I heart GY' for that, Andy?
Later today, of course, we will learn the outcome of Gary Jones' appeal against that red card, and your most recent emails to the Diary have taken up this subject with relish. Bedders asks: "How about a T-shirt similar to the Glen Downey one, in tribute to the unlucky Lumpy one, reported with true Telegraphical skill: 'I was there when the Lump was sent off against Continued on Page 40'. Just a thought." Both Tony Butcher and Durham Diary, meanwhile, have emailed to ask whether Cod Almighty's payment of Jones' appeal fee can be made in instalments or needs to be settled with a Lump sum. They say great minds think alike, but it's not only great minds.
Monday 22 May
Ticket sales for... um... what was it again... some game of football or other have topped 8,000, reports the Mariners' official website, but sales have been a little slower than club bigwigs anticipated. "I feel that this time round fans are not panicking like Wembley because concessions are available in the whole stadium," says GTFC accounts manager Steve Wraith, glancing worriedly at a pile of 15,000 unsold tickets. Steve also offers the weekend's rotten weather as an explanation for Town's tardy ticket take-up, but the Diary is tempted to mention the Millennium Stadium's deceptively exploitative pricing policy (concessions notwithstanding, remember that two thirds of seats cost at least 30 quid) and what sounds increasingly like a nightmare journey. We all follow the Grimsby over land and sea, not to mention Yorkshire; but nobody mentioned south Wales on a Sunday with engineering works in place on the rail network.
As some of you may have seen in Saturday's Grimsby Telegraph, the £350 fee payable to the FA for Gary Jones' red card appeal tomorrow has been forked up by this website as an act of support for the magnificent Lumpaldinho and the rest of the team. The congratulatory emails have been literally trickling in, and tasteful Town fans wishing to pat us on the back for our incredible gesture of kindness are urged to invest in one or both of our splendid new T-shirts. It is because of your support in buying CA fashionwear that we've been able to put up the Lump money; the garment sales also keep us online by paying for the hosting of this site; and most importantly of all, they look bloody great. There is a good chance (though not a guarantee, OK, and subject to stock levels) that orders received by tonight can be sent out in time for Cardiff, so carry on consuming.
So if you've still got money to spend after shelling out on your tickets and travel to Cardiff, accommodation in one of the city's charming hotels, a lifetime's supply of tooth-rotting, obesity-inducing fizzy drink, and your Matt Tees and I heart GY T-shirts, why not also avail yourself of one of these magnificent garments? After Durham Diary's inquiries for a Glen Downey T-shirt last week, Mr C 'Nutty' Nuttall of TBZAS has emailed to let us know that his organisation has been vending this fine item of clothing since just after the great one's finest moment at Wrexham on New Year's Eve. But how can we buy them, Nutty?
And finally today, Phil Jevons has signed for Bristol City, if you're interested. You aren't? But what if it means the Robins will call off their chase for Luton's Michael Reddy? They won't? Oh. All right then.
Friday 19 May
Hello! It's Regular Diary's day off today, as I'm sure you are aware what with it being Friday and all that. But all our substitute diarists also appear to have taken the day off and it has been left to me, Gambling Diary, to fill you in on the news. I suppose I am always in the CA office on a Friday lunchtime and with no football this weekend I needed something constructive to do. I hate weekends with no football as it means the missus makes me do things like mow the lawn and board the loft instead. But I refuse to go to the depths of watching Watford against Leeds in the Division Two play-off final.
Talking of play-off finals, we now know who we will be facing in the Division 4 final at Cardiff on the 28th - Cheltenham Town, who drew 0-0 with Wycombe last night. That means our victory over Lincoln on Tuesday night remains the only home win from all 12 play-off semi-finals this year, which our resident statistician tells me is the lowest number of home wins in the semi-finals ever, with the previous lowest total being three, back in 2002. This is the same fella who told you that Cheltenham would make the final the other week. He also said we'd get past Lincoln. The lad's good isn't he? Maybe he should do the tips next year because I am having a bit of a bad run of it all at the minute.
Our opponents on the 28th certainly aren't slow off the mark and their official site is already pushing play-off merchandise. No sign of any equivalent commercial nous from Grimsby though. That said, the fans will all just take Harry Haddocks to wave anyway, won't they? I know I will be taking mine. I had one last time I saw us play in a big final. It was the AWS game at Wembley and I traded it for a few beers in the Rat & Parrot in Bayswater after the match. Not sure I would trade my current one for any quantity of Brains though.
While the OS may not be ramming Town-related merchandise down our throats, they are kind enough to tell us a bit more about the tickets for Cardiff. As you know by now we are in the Hyder (who?) South Stand and the club have decided to sell tickets "in a clockwise direction". I am at a loss as to why the seating plan page is named after a classic tragedy about a farmer from Massachusetts by Edith Wharton though.
Which strip did Town wear at Sincil Bank? Yep, the blue one. Lincoln wore their red and white striped home kit. What did the Mariners run out in at Blundell Park? Indeed, the black and white striped home kit. Lincoln wore their red and white striped kit, which the ref was OK with. But the referee for the final need not concern himself with whether the black and white of Grimsby could be confused with the red and white of Cheltenham because it seems that Cheltenham will be wearing a new specially commissioned kit that doesn't clash with our home togs, not that I can find owt about it on their OS. Oh well. I must admit I am pleased that we will be wearing the traditional black and white in Cardiff. But why are Cheltenham pushing a load of red and white merchandise if they won't be wearing those colours on the day? I give up.
I was going to tell you more about what the OS has to tell Mariners fans worldwide but I'm not sure if you really care about the sights of Cardiff or that Matt Le Tissier will be the main attraction at the latest bash at McMenemy's next week. You might care about the Chairman's Challenge game that was due to take place last night but I can't find much on that, other than the fact they have christened Positive John "Chopper" for some reason. If you wish to comment on John Fenty's tackle perhaps you could drop us a line at the usual address.
As it happens, there have been a few interesting emails to the Diary recently. Dan Humphrey wanted to know if there was an archive of our "amazing Cod Almighty front pages". Ah, now you're asking Dan. Apparently there is a folder somewhere with most, if not all, of the old landing pages (as I am reliably informed they are called) in. But there is no way to access this via a browser and there are currently no plans to open this archive up to the masses. So, er, yes there is such an archive but it's not available to anyone except the elves who maintain the CA site. Sorry. Maybe if there is sufficient public demand we can get that vault cracked open so everyone can enjoy its contents.
"Craig Armstrong and Clint Marcelle instead of Tommy Mooney and Kevin Betsy. I'll take that," writes Durham Diary. Too bloody right! Mooney missed some sitters last night apparently, and with them missed the opportunity to score against us at Cardiff, because you know if Wycombe had have got there he'd have bagged at least one, the bugger. DD also asks: "Can we have a Glen Downey T-shirt in time for Cardiff?" It's a good idea but it won't be happening, I'm afraid. You'll have to make do with one of our other designs instead.
And finally, a quick word from our man in charge of T-shirts. Could Edward Marshall please email us because we'd like to speak to him about his order and the email address he supplied when placing the order doesn't work. Ta ta.
Thursday 18 May
You want the good news or the bad? Here's the good: Town have been given nearly 25,000 tickets for the fourth division play-off final a week on Sunday, which is thousands less than we took to Wembley for the Auto Windscreens final in 1998 but is still loads. Here's the bad: two thirds of them will cost £30 or more. The spin being put on the pricing policy for the match is that tickets "start at £20", but the cold, hard facts are that only 8,000 are available at this price, with a further 8,000 tagged at 30 quid and the rest at a Chelsea-esque 40 and 50. Here's a bit more good, though: under-16s and over-65s pay half the above prices and, if the Diary has read the official website right, you'll be able to buy tickets online from Saturday. What do you mean you don't trust the OS to get your order right and they'll probably send you 112 tins of white emulsion instead?
Another vexed issue surrounding the voyage to Cardiff is, of course, that of transportation. Those wishing to minimise the environmental impact of the play-off final by leaving their cars at home will be taking the 20:35 Transpennine Express from Grimsby Town the night before and changing at Sheffield and Newport to arrive Cardiff Central 13:43 a full hour and a quarter before kick off with a tranquil night's sleep on a bench at Sheffield station into the bargain. There is a page on the Mariners' official website headlined Coaches To Cardiff, but at the time of writing it has only a tiny photograph of one solitary coach, and no text at all. Still, there's a week and a half to put it right yet.
"I didn't get to Sincil Bank," writes Sibbo in an email to the Diary, "but watched last Sat's game on TV in my local pub. Behind a post at the bar, just to add authenticity. It made a nice change to be able to see replays of incidents during the game and I thought Town gave as good as they got. Ah yes, the first Lincoln 'goal'. I immediately thought Shrewsbury. Some you win some you lose, eh." Well, yeah they say these things balance out over the course of a season, and it's not our fault if the balancing out goes in Town's favour during the play-offs. "Going on to Fen Butcher, I think it's a little harsh to always compare him to his dad. There will probably never be a better footballing centre-half to appear in a Town shirt and Ben has to make his mark in his own right. Time will tell, but I believe we may see him win over the fans as did Rob Jones." If we do, Sib, he's gone the right way about it in the past five days. "Oh, before I forget... see you at Cardiff." As long as I can afford a ticket and find a way to get there, mate...
So that's all from your great-tasting regular Diary for another week, but before I go there's just time to report that Town have apparently been given the 'unlucky' southern end of the Millennium Stadium. Are the seats green or something?
Wednesday 17 May
Well, now. That was fun, wasn't it?
Town are likely to appeal against the late, late red card shown to Gary Jones in last night's little frolic against gentle, fair-minded Lincoln City. The totemic forward was dismissed for an alleged elbow on Imps defender Gareth McAuley, and with 0.00349 seconds of injury time remaining for the visitors to claw back their two-goal aggregate deficit, only a fool would believe there was intent. "We're going to look very closely at the best way of appealing against it," Mr Russell Slade has told the club's official website. The Diary suggests a campaign of mass civil disobedience, possibly involving the Lump lying down in the road in front of Brian Barwick's car.
Jones, of course, will be as gutted as any supporter should the card be upheld and the ensuing suspension rule him out of Town's trip to the Millennium Stadium. In the circumstances, then, is it not a little insensitive for the OS to be displaying this?
So what's it gonna cost? Tickets for the second division play-off final between Leeds and Watford are reported to begin at an eye-watering 32 English pounds, and the Diary waits keenly for news from BP on the extent to which Town fans will be bled dry in 11 days' time. Keep your fingers crossed that you'll have enough change for a pint of Brains SA.
Tuesday 16 May
That's better. After yesterday's empty seats shame was followed by a hasty public information campaign to inform the Grimsby and Cleethorpes public about the logistics of the play-off system, and some of the part-timers who turned up in November to see how Alan 'I'm Telling Teacher!' Shearer would cope with being man-marked by Mark Lever realised that there was another match to play, GTFC have now shifted all but a few hundred of the available seats for this evening's semi-final second leg. For their part the visitors, Lincoln 'Empty Seats' City, have found buyers for all but a piffling 200 of their own allocation. I guess the play-offs lose a bit of their appeal when you've been in them as many times as Lincoln.
Mr Russell Slade is in uncharacteristically relaxed form in a Mariners World interview looking ahead to tonight's little kickabout, and even the audio isn't too bad this time. The Town boss reminisces about similar situations during his time at Notts County and Sheffield United, anticipates a tough time this evening, and declares himself dead chuffed with last Saturday's rare old win at Sincil Bank in the first leg particularly the performance of Fen Butcher, who had a mare in the 5-0 two months earlier. "That was a big thing for Ben," muses a confused Mr Russ, "going back there and reproducing." Hang on I thought that was Rob Jones?
I expect you want some team news, then, don't you? Thanks to the abovesaid Russnatter, the world may know that His Royal Macness Sir Macca of Mac will not play, cos of the persistent whatever-it-was that saw him subbed out of the first leg. Curtis Woodhouse has a thigh strain but could still be a contender. Tom Newey, Gary Croft and Andy Parkinson all of whom performed splendidly last Saturday are all going to play, even though they're not fully fit; and Luton's Michael Reddy will probably start on the bench again, since Sladey was pleased by the contribution of Junior Mendes at Lincoln. He's been a lot better in the last month or so, Mendes, but he never looks anywhere near actually scoring a goal, does he? The idea here, by the way, is that someone at the club reads the Diary and shows it to Junior, and Junior says: "Ha! I'll show him!" and scores three times tonight before crossing for Fen Butcher to head home a fourth. Everyone got that?
"What's with all this bloody positivity?" objects Michael Shelton, in an email to the Diary. "You're supposed to be a Town fan. Allow me to demonstrate: 'Of the ten league play-off ties this season, none have been won by the home side. We don't have a chance. We're going to do a bloody Huddersfield.' Yeah, that's more like it." Everyone got that? Richard 'Bedders' Bedwell, meanwhile, writes: "I usually go for a Pontoon ticket, but due to a late cancelled cricket match and an uncontactable cousin, I've only just bought tickets for tonight. Good news for Town is only a few tickets left, bad news for me is that my tickets were described as 'back of the Main Stand'. Can you actually see the pitch from there?" If Mr Shelton's prognosis proves accurate, the question will be not whether you can see the pitch, Bedders, but whether you want to.
And if the away side should indeed triumph again tonight, readers, remember that it's not the end of the world. The end of the world is when the USA changes its constitution to allow Bush to run for a third term and him and his brother and the neocons rig the whole thing and he wins again. Everyone got that?
Monday 15 May
Tomorrow evening sees Town's biggest game since Mr Russell Slade took the reins at Blundell Park two summers ago and nobody seems to have told the Great Grimsby Public. As of last night around 1,300 tickets were still available for the second leg of the Mariners' play-off semi-final against Lincoln, reports the club's official website in disbelief, including a whopping 864 among the dentists of the Main Stand ("Mostly good views", adds the OS with a market trader's touch of desperation). After the significant part played by travelling Mariners in Saturday's first-leg victory at Sincil Bank, the Diary is hopeful that the people of North East Lincs will get the message in time though it may be that the five-minute fans who queued all night for Newcastle tickets are yet to grasp the play-off system and are assuming that the Imps fixture is a semi-final in the Lincolnshire Senior Cup.
Underpaid player of the season Rob 'The Stick' Jones, who sat out Saturday while his wife was in labour, could return to duty for Tuesday's underspectated second leg. This is presumably the message of hope to be taken from a Mariners World interview with Jones which the Diary can't get to play, and the only other thing I can find about it is an item on Teamtalk in which Mr Russ optimistically deploys the future rather than the conditional tense in explaining that "to have him back will be wonderful" (my italics). "There were a few complications and delays with the birth," adds Sladey, which is only to be expected with a six-foot-seven baby.
Remaining on the subject of the play-offs, as I suppose we ought to really, Gillingham chairman Paul Scally appears to know something we don't. Speaking of his side's prospects in next year's third division, the charming and sensitive Gills supremo anticipates an exciting time of it "with Millwall, Crewe and Brighton coming down and Carlisle and Grimsby and Northampton coming up". You may be tempted, at this point, to conclude that cuddly Paul simply hasn't been paying attention, but this is the man who had to be fined £10,000 by the Football League for correctly 'predicting' that Gillingham would lose their 1999 play-off final against Manchester City. Book your Cardiff hotel rooms now, people.
If Scally's mysterious powers of foresight prove effective again then he will have had statistics on his side as well. Phil Watson has emailed Cod Almighty to ask: "Do you think you could hurl some raw meat in the direction of CA's tame statistician and get him to tell us how often the team finishing fourth goes up through the play-offs? Is it more or less than the 1 in 4 chance predicted by the 'it's all a bleedin' lottery innit' school? Enquiring but lazy minds want to know." The answer is no. Not "no, it isn't more or less than a 1 in 4 chance", but "no, CA's tame statistician, known to close friends as Andy Holt, won't do it". Why? Because the Guardian website did it the other week, and their answer looks very nice for the Mariners. In the 17 sets of fourth division play-offs to have taken place so far, the highest-placed side has won on 12 occasions. Stop me if this is getting too positive.
Finally today, both Mark Stilton and Mark Wilson have emailed the Diary to draw attention to a masterclass in shockingly inaccurate reporting from the BBC, which claims that "Lincoln defender Gary Cohen made a crucial deflection to prevent Andy Parkinson from doubling Grimsby's advantage" and attributes Curtis Woodhouse's last-minute clearance off the line to Tom Newey. Perhaps the reporter took Rocky at his word when he said he was quitting after the Northampton match.
Saturday 13 May
The magnificent Jones the Lump is Town's hero once again, registering his 16th goal of the season as the side takes a one-nil advantage in the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Lincoln. The sturdy but skilful frontman finished a splendid passing move midway through the first half, firing the Mariners to a first win at Sincil Bank for nearly half a century, thanks also to some uniformly solid performances at the back - including that of Fen Butcher, deputising for Jones the Stick, whose missus went into labour overnight - not to mention a commanding display in midfield from Paul Bolland and a great showing on the left wing from Andy Parkinson. The Diary feels rather giddy, and may well spend the evening taking liquor.
Friday 12 May
Weren't we supposed to be drinking sangria in the Park by now?
This is how life is meant to be:
9:00am: wake up with the players
9:30am: the Road to Wembley part 1: plucky plumbers versus battling brickies
9:45am: watch the players eat breakfast
10:00am: the Road to Wembley part 2: elusive electricians versus lower-league luddites
10:15am: Cup Final Mastermind
10:45am: watch the players walk around a pond
11am: Cup Final Question of Sport
11:30am: teams leave hotel
12:05pm: It's a Cup Final Knockout
Cup final day used to be the pinnacle, the acme, the centre of the universe. The world stopped to watch it all, including those unfunny funny bits with celebrity supporters. Heavy Bevvy Nevvy Southall was funny though, in 1986. Tarby's bar was rubbish; I never watched ITV's cheap aftershave version. What do we have now? It's just the spam and chutney in the fourth-division-play-off Tesco-value-range-white-bread sandwich. Doesn't that trip off the tongue like a Reddy run?
All in all that makes Lincoln versus Town It's a Knockout, doesn't it. How appropriate. Town on that bungee rope, slip-sliding away on their wet, greasy backside with the promotion bucket on their head. Endeavour to persevere: the game ain't over yet.
Oh yes, Deviant Diary returns from the depths of deepest darkest Lincolnshire for all the news that's fit to ignore. In a bit of reverse swing psychology that will bamboozle tail-end slogger Big Keef, sources close to Ran-tin-tin Russ have stated that Town will have a full squad to choose from. So that means they are all injured and Mystic Glen Downey will partner an unnamed trialist in central defence. Or maybe they are fit, or just some of them are? See, you're already as confused as a Confucian monk doing underwater sudoko.
The real team news is that they have players and so do we. Some have injures, some don't; and the managers will select eleven of them to start. Oooooooo, the tension. Curtis Woodhouse hasn't retired yet; his emphatic statement that the Northampton game would be his last has been lost in the mists of time, but who knows what tomorrow brings. Does he know they've closed off Ferrens Way to northbound traffic? Has he got £2.50 for the Humber Bridge? Will he ever manage to lift a corner over the first defender?
Lincoln are excited and are trying to spin three negatives into a positive. Such experience of play-offs. They're once... twice... three tiiiiiiiiiiiimes a failure. After last week's draw against Rochdale the Spumanti was as free-flowing as the goals on some day or other; can't really remember, can you? Maybe a video of Lincoln's presumptive celebrations will be all that's required to fire up Town. The flipchart didn't work, so perhaps a multimedia interactive presentation will do the trick. Where's the Powerpoint slide with that existential allegory depicting a stick man drowning in vat of apathy?
And finally, the fluffy kitten up a tree story. As a message of support, none will rally the Town troops more than this from Nathan from Humberston. He loves bacon, but will be in bed for the play-offs. That's what being a Town supporter is all about.
Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a Lumpy ride.
Thursday 11 May
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a chairman in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a manager who is also his soulmate. Thus it was that Mr John Fenty gave employment to Mr Russell Slade two years ago this summer, and which of you here was not moved by last week's Mariners World interview in which the GTFC chairman spoke bashfully of the effect had on him by Russ's sweet smiles? As the build-up continues to this play-off semi-final against Lincoln, another important sign has emerged of the two chaps' closeness as one of Slade's exes, Imps midfielder Scott Kerr, has sold a kiss and tell story to the Lincolnshire Echo. "In my first game for Scarborough I saw him pour a cup of orange over someone," reveals Kerr which is, of course, exactly what Positive John did after Town's win against Tottenham in the League Cup last September. Well, it was more of a vat than a cup, but still awww, bless.
Transfer rumours surround two former Grimsby forwards, in a funny double triangular sort of shape. Phil Jevons is out of contract at Yeovil and seems to be hoping for a return to something more like the £4,000 a week he was rumoured to be earning at Blundell Park, as he has already turned down a move to Oldham, who have also been linked with a move for Luton's Michael Reddy, who is also said to feature on the wishlist of third division underachievers Bristol City, who are also believed to fancy a bit of Jevons themselves. Try representing that in diagrammatic form without moving your hands!
Diary reader Richard Bedwell has emailed with lots of suggestions for out-of-contract players Town could sign this summer, and for the first time since this discussion began somebody has had something sensible to say. Well, I say sensible; I can't see Wolves' Ioan Ganea ("striker, released, 33, scores goals, Romanian international") being terribly keen, because Molineux is a Magnificent Stadium, and Wolves are a Premiership Club Really, apart from that thing about them not being in the Premiership, and... er, sorry. Right. Sam Stockley, Colchester, right-back, 28; Eugen Bopp, great name, lazy, 22 ("Nicky Southall kept him out of the team," explains Richard worryingly); Paul Gerrard, Forest, goalkeeper, 33; Steven Istead, Hartlepool, released, right midfield, 21 ("doesn't score many goals, popular with the fans" sounds just like Andy Parkinson), Jason Jarrett, Norwich, midfield, 28. When it comes to Sheffield Wednesday winger Ritchie Partridge, though, that's when Richard applies the recruitment criterion that is always at the back of our minds: "Champ Manager legend". Anyway, thanks for that. It just all depends on whether they've got bigger fish to fry than knocking a ball around for 500 quid a week, really, doesn't it? You're hired.
Another Diary reader, this time called Steve, has emailed a plaintive cry for help ahead of this weekend's gubbins. "This is a long shot, but here goes," he warns, as Alan Pouton lines up a wildly inaccurate 30-yarder. "I'll be at BP on Tuesday but domestic duties mean I have to be in London on Saturday. Does anybody know of anywhere in central London that will be showing the Mariners' game? Ideas much appreciated!" Can you help Steve's eyes go square while we go spare? Email email@example.com if you can.
This being Thursday, and Friday being guest diarist day, today's Diary is the last you'll hear from me before our bums squeeze tensely into Sincil Bank (and Steve settles down with a nice pint) to watch the Mariners' future decided. I will give the final word, then, to our old mate Sibbo, who picks up the theme of Town's player of the year before issuing a strong-lunged rallying cry to us all. "Yes, how the hell has Jones the Stick tranformed into such a good centre-half? Maybe Grezzer has helped? If so perhaps Ben Futcher will be player of the season next year." Steady on! David Blaine has just demonstrated the dangers of holding your breath for too long. "Over the past two seasons there have been some good players come to Town (along with some not so good), of course. Although I didn't understand the departure of Simon Ramsden I do see good signs with the team playing better of late. It will be a shame if some players leave due to us not winning promotion. But this seems inevitable. Think last season, think this season. We are going in the right direction and it's a while since that has been said. Those youth team players deserved a good cheer for their success when they paraded the cup at last week's home game. Now it would be nice to see some of those lads come through into the first team. See you at Cardiff."
Wednesday 10 May
For a while he played for Gateshead, who are rubbish, then he went to Stockport and couldn't get in the team, so they loaned him out to Macclesfield, and he got injured or something and didn't really do very much, then he got released on a free transfer. When GTFC signed Rob Jones in July 2004 it was not on the basis of an impressive CV, and during his first year at Blundell Park supporters perceived little reason to anticipate great things when his contract was renewed at the end of it. Whether the Stick spent the summer of 2005 in transcendental meditation or watching videos of Bobby Moore is not known, but he began the following season with some of the finest displays seen from a central defender in many a long year by Town fans, who risked life and limb to carry Jones off the pitch above their heads after his awesome performance in September's cup win over Tottenham. And the pressure is now well and truly on BP's men with guns maturing in age to improve the player's shitty wage after Jones was named the Mariners' player of the year at last night's awards ceremony. The young player award went to 22-year-old Gary Cohen, while Paul Bolland, Gary Jones and Luton's Michael Reddy collected a clutch of secondary gongs. Most importantly of all, Sir John McDermott retains the title Cod Almighty player of the year after we awarded him it in 2005 and couldn't be bothered to do another one this time.
This Saturday's inconsequential kickabout at Sincil Bank is to be prefaced by a game of five-a-side between Imps and Mariners supporters. The local branch of the BBC has organised the match as part of its build-up to the weekend's trifle, and Town's representatives will be headed up by the man inside the foam suit, Andy 'Mighty Mariner' Carr. Highlights will feature on Friday's Look North programme, and it is to be hoped that Mighty will be allowed to retain his ceremonial dress for the occasion.
In other coverage of the play-off semi, former Town full-back and City manager Graham 'Very Much So' Taylor who later enjoyed a spell in charge of some bigger teams, the Diary understands has been sharing his profound footballing insights with the Lincolnshire Echo. "Whether Grimsby missing out on automatic promotion on the last day gives Lincoln a psychological edge, I'm not sure," Taylor tells the potato rag. "I don't know much about the players because I have seen very little of them." Right. Thanks for that then.
On the subject of Town's possible transfer targets for the summer, which we were yesterday and the day before, Dan Humphrey has contacted the Diary. The self-styled 'North Bank Diary' is responding to Mark Wilson's email yesterday suggesting that Russ's first port of call will be the released list of King$ton Communication$ FC. "I must report that KCFC full-backs Mark Lynch and Robbie Stockdale are available," writes Dan. "And I am informed that they are both rubbish. So Macca need not worry." That's Sir Macca to you.
Tuesday 9 May
By close of play last night Town's season ticket office had already shifted around 1,000 of the 1,500-odd tickets very kindly handed over by Lincoln for the first leg of the clubs' fourth division play-off semi-final at Sincil Bank this Saturday. Assuming that the ticket office was open for eight hours, the rate of ticket sales averages out at around one every 30 seconds, or about the same frequency with which the Imps play a long ball. Pot? Kettle? Diary? The remaining 500 tickets are likely to be taken today. The Mariners' meagre allocation is as the club's official website points out 900 short of the number of season ticket holders at Blundell Park, and ingenious Town fans who are expected to miss out are already thought to be devising new and innovative ways to blame GTFC instead of Lincoln for their impending disappointment. Elsewhere today the OS has a little piece about the rules of the play-off which suggests that the away goals rule will not apply, although given the Mariners' recent away form this may simply be wishful thinking.
Lincoln's preparations for the weekend's festivities are unlikely to be affected by the re-emergence of rumours linking Keith Alexander with Peterborough. As long ago as 2003 the Imps boss was said to figure highly on Barry Fry's wishlist, just behind chips, pizza, kebabs, burgers and deep-fried lard pies, and recent whispers that the well-built Posh supremo has reawakened his interest in Big Keef have found their way into today's Daily Mirror. Straw-seeking Town fans can probably spare themselves the bother of clutching, as the paper's standards of journalistic accuracy are indicated by its description of Alexander as "former Lincoln City boss". It is possible that the Mirror knows something we don't, but it's probably something about Pete Doherty or Chantelle Houghton.
Think of Rochdale, it is said, and you think of disappointment, Tony Ford and a waterlogged pitch. If you tend to see former GTFC left-backs through rose-tinted glasses rather than an alcoholic haze, you might also think of Tony Gallimore and wish you'd appreciated him a bit more before he left BP for Barnsley in 2003 and wound up at Spotland a year later. You might also note that the player has been released by Dale boss Steve Parkin and think: "Oooh!" for a minute before you remember the relentless march of Time's army and the endless war it wages for all of our souls, in which defeat is inevitable and Death the universal constant, and then you realise that Galli is now 34 years old and relinquish your own dwindling decades on this mortal plane to blank despair. But hey, it's not all bad, because Rochdale have also offered a new two-year contract to Simon Ramsden.
Yesterday the Diary ran an email from Daniel Wignall recommending with considerable vehemence that Rambo's team-mate Rickie Lambert ought to be top of Mr Russell Slade's summer shopping list. Your suggestions about who else Town should sign have been nothing if not pragmatic. "Goodfellow, Mildenhall and JPK would be a bloody good start," writes CA's own Mat Hare, while Mark Wilson looks over the water for inspiration. "Thanks for your interesting idea about who's caught my eye and could sign for Town in the close season," he writes. "Can I come back to you when King$ton Communication$ FC have made it clear who will be available on a free this summer? Thanks."
Finally today, a brief reminder that any Grimbarians not attending one of the town's world-class five-star restaurants or avant-garde underground theatres this evening might care to toddle along to McMenemy's for this year's GTFC awards presentation thingummy, as the Grimsby Telegraph reports that a few tickets will be sold on the door. Glen Downey, prepare your speech.
Monday 8 May
You know what happened, and there still ain't a lot else to tell ya. Lincoln have cut the Mariners' ticket allocation because they are scared of being outsung and outshouted by the codheads; Positive John Fenty has turned a blind eye to the pitch invasion and the booing of Andy Parkinson to say the fans were "marvellous"; Luton's Michael Reddy might still be injured, or might be signing for Oldham for all I know; Russ is trying his best to sound optimistic, bless his heart; and semi-official GTFC cheerleader Diddy Dave Boylen insists: "We are still in the equation!" If it's e=mc2, would that make Paul Bolland energy, Gary Jones mass and Justin Whittle the speed of light?
New Deals for Trio is the headline of a story on Town's official website. Yes, I thought it meant Rob Jones, Steve Mildenhall and Luton's Michael Reddy as well but the trio actually referred to is that of youth team stars Danny North, Ben Higgins and Rob Murray, whose heroic endeavours in the recent Midland Youth Cup triumph have earned them a huge vote of confidence in the form of new six-month contracts. Start as you mean to go on, eh.
"Since when did Rickie Lambert of Rochdale become such a predator in front of goal? He is the saviour of Rochdale!" So begins an email to the Diary from Daniel Wignall, who continues: "Russ should push the boat out and sign him. A right-sided midfielder who scores 20 goals a season is just what we need. He is Rochdale's saviour, their proverbial knight in shining armour." The Diary suspects that if Russ's boat were pushed out as far as necessary to sign Lambert then it might end up lost forever up financial shit creek, but the notion of exactly how Slades might sort it this summer is an interesting one. Which players have caught your eye and might fall within Town's limited means? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
Saturday 6 May
It's always the bloody hope that gets you. Every time. Every sodding time.
Friday 5 May
Irrespective of the result, our Cobbler friends will be enjoying fish and chips after their match with Grimsby tomorrow. Your Guest Diarist knows this because Colin Calderwood has told his official site: "We will all enjoy our journey up to Grimsby on Saturday morning and we will certainly enjoy our journey back and we will be having fish and chips after the game instead of pasta and rice. That will be the time to really let our hair down and we will all have a drink together on Saturday night." Bless 'em because they deserve it really. A formidable away record, apparently built on mountains of carbs and, sadly, one that Mr Calderwood is looking to improve, saying: "We go to Grimsby looking to end the season on a real high and we have got too good a group here not to be a hard team to beat at the very least. We are going to celebrate getting promotion again this weekend and ideally it would be nice to do that after a good performance and a good result."
So that's the bad news, gentle reader Calderwood reckons they will be trying. But on the other hand they will be trying without pesky top scorer Scott McGleish, who is under the surgeon's knife for a hernia operation. They've sent him in early to beat the queue, as Mr Calderwood explains: "After this weekend the surgeon will be inundated by footballers wanting similar operations." Rounding off this introduction, which can be loosely described as opposition-watch, is the news that the Cobblers have sold their entire 1,884 ticket allocation, and have opened up a waiting list in case any ticket-holding fans are beaten to death with sticks in the meantime by tormented Labour supporters rendered insane by the madness of their own government. My own view is that Labour supporters who fail a simple socialism test should be simply (pregnant pause) deported. Whose human rights could that possibly infringe?
Town, on the other hand, are Town. I know it, you know it, and John Tondeur knows it. Whether John still has a thing for Jane Asher only he can tell, but his mind will be far from such carnal thoughts tomorrow as he scans the team sheet to find out which of the twelvety injured players has recovered enough to pull on a black and white shirt. According to Mr Slade on Humberside last night and the official site today, Macca and the Lump are OK; Bolland is very doubtful; Reddy will make the bench at best and the Stick has an outside chance. Given his track record on such matters I expect them all to start.
On a completely unrelated matter, those endlessly-toiling-for-a-story Cod Almighty staffers have forwarded me the news that Scunny player-turned-agent (spit) Peter Morrison has litigiously earned himself four hundred grand in compensation for the tackle Town's Ben Chapman inflicted on him in a 2001 reserve game. The article doesn't mention whether he still limps. No doubt Town's premiums have gone through the roof. I never saw the tackle and don't know anyone who did, but it can't be worse than the one that put Martin Pringle out of the game, can it?
If we don't get lucky and go up tomorrow then we will be in the play-offs. And if you want to go to watch them, keep your Northampton ticket stub. Last-day-of-the season match predictions are similar to crossing a boggy field in plimmies, so I'll restrict myself to saying that if we end up playing Lincoln it will be for stakes of the highest order and that both football clubs and the local constabulary will be shitting themselves as to how to keep the loonies off the grass. Meanwhile Sky will be brushing off their footage of the Kalalala and Whittle moments while Lenny Lawrence rubs his sweaty palms together at the prospect of earning filthy lucre while being disrespectful to our beloved Grimsby. It just doesn't bear thinking about. So come on, Oxford. See yer.
Thursday 4 May
Forget the groins of Rob Jones and Luton's Michael Reddy. Forget the foot of Jones the Lump and the knee of Gary Croft. Forget the support of a capacity crowd. Forget Oxford's fight to stay up, Orient's nerve and Northampton having nothing to play for. Forget all this, because the outcome of Town's promotion decider this Saturday was decided some time ago in an office at the headquarters of the Football League. Saturday's referee, you see, will be Paul Taylor. The Mariners' official website says: "Paul started refereeing in 1977 and progressed through the Isthmian League to The Football League as an assistant referee in 1986. He was promoted to a Football League referee in 1990. Paul refereed in the 2004 divisional play-offs and was 4th official at the FA Trophy final in the same year. The Hertfordshire official has mainly officiated in League One and Championship games this season." Cod Almighty's match reporter Tony Butcher says: "He started out being very poor and then failed to reach those Olympian heights of competence... He seemed to revel in his public flogging, enjoying the invective and disgust heaped upon him." Yes. Taylor is the Man Who Refereed Against Darlington.
"That pitch invasion was disgraceful and I have made my feeling known to the Grimsby chairman. They have deliberately tried to cheat the game. It started 10 minutes before the end. I'll be reporting it to the FA but there's not a lot you can do about it now. That's very bad sportsmanship." Southend chairman Ron Martin was rendered barely articulate by his rage one year ago when his team's hopes of automatic promotion were curtailed by an unstoppable wave of Grimsby pubescence and the referee ended the match early and who could blame him? Not that it's gone badly for the Shrimpers since they went up in the play-offs, and again automatically this season, and they've still got Freddy Eastwood but 12 months down the line Martin's GTFC counterpart Mr Positive John Fenty has revealed that the club was severely rebuked by "the Football Authorities" as a result and warns that Town may face a points deduction if the same thing happens against Northampton this Saturday. OK, kids? When the bell goes for playtime on Monday morning, just lie and tell each other you went on the pitch. You don't actually have to do it. Consider it a valuable lesson for your future working life.
Well, readers, it'll be Guest Diary here tomorrow to soothe your spirits ahead of Saturday, so that's all from your regular Diary for the regular league season. The irony of supporting a football team at this time of the year is that, for all our desperation and passion, there is nothing that you or I can really do to change anything. All we can do is hope and even that's stretching it a bit with Paul Taylor refereeing. Mind you, does anyone fancy posing as an Orient fan and invading the pitch at Oxford...?
Wednesday 3 May
GTFC are reporting a fair few injuries in the run-up to this Saturday's must-win but-it-might-not-make-any-difference encounter with Northampton at Blundell Park, though before we panic it should be noted that GTFC are not the sort of namby-pamby club to let an injury stop them fielding a player. The club's official website has announced that there is "almost a full team in the treatment room" comprising, in descending order of significance, Sir John McDermott, Rob Jones, Paul Bolland, Gary Jones, Luton's Michael Reddy, Miles Chamberlain, Paul Ashton, John Lukic and Tom Newey. There's a photo of Dave Moore on the page. Dave Moore is the club physiotherapist. There isn't a quote from him or anything, but he's the physiotherapist so he will be the one treating all these injured players. Got that? Good.
Remember the green seats? Course you do. Back in November, as Town tumbled out of three cups in 12 minutes and the signs began to appear that, actually, the team might not be crowned fourth division champions by February with a record 238 points, superstitious Mariners suspected that the team's apparent loss of form might have been caused not by its lack of tactical flexibility and reliance on percentage football but by the unlucky emerald-hued temporary seating used to accommodate five-minute fans who briefly declared themselves Grimsby 'til I die during the side's headline-grabbing League Cup run. Anyway, they probably won't be back in place for the Northampton match, because there isn't much time to put them back up, so the sell-out capacity crowd will most likely be around 8,600 rather than 9,100 or whatever it was supposed to be before. Shrewd move by the club to put the tickets on sale before the Macclesfield game, when it looked like Town would still be playing for something against the Cobblers, eh?
It was of course a former Grimsby player, Paul Harsley, who created the goal that more or less ended Town's promotion hopes at Moss Rose. Another ex-Mariner, Jamie Forrester, contributed substantially towards Mr Russell Slade's misery at Lincoln just over a month ago. Back on the opening day of the season it was Chris Hargreaves, lately of this parish, whose goal for Oxford denied GTFC two crucial home points. And so the list goes on. One name that has not come back to haunt us in the same way but give him chance is that of Greg 'Young Greg' Young, the talented left-sided defender who was allowed to leave for Halifax in February 2005, though he has been named in the England non-League squad to play Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales later this month. Oh, look Wayne Brown is there too, playing for Hereford. He must have made up that thing about being signed by a club in Denmark just to get away from his trial at Blundell Park last summer.
Matthew Le Tissier is to visit Blundell Park as part of a "special Sportsmen's Evening" at McMenemy's later this month. The hook-nosed former Southampton genius will appear on 22 May, assuming that the event is not cancelled a week beforehand, alongside someone called Gary Marshall, who, according to Town's official website, is a "well-known comedian": a description that would surely be unnecessary if it were true.
Today's final word comes from Richard Bedwell, whose email to the Diary begins: "I always assumed that Macca was the longest serving player at Town." But...? "Not according to footballtransfers.net that honour goes to Andrew Pettinger. For the hard of seeing, Sir John is listed as a player-coach, but more worryingly is the appearance of Mr Antoine-Curier. Get well soon, Luton's Michael Reddy." Thanks, Bedders and while we're on the subject, did you realise that the corridors of BP are haunted by the ghost of Disco Des Hamilton and that Pettinger's goalkeeping jersey is contested by Bradley Hughes and Ossett Town defender Kirk Wheeler? It's true. I read it in the Guardian.
Tuesday 2 May
Greenfly. Tapeworm. Head lice. Fleas. Chinese liver fluke. Monogenetic trematodes. Football agents. Did you spot the odd one out? It was greenfly: all the others are parasites. Speaking of agents, Rob Jones has been speaking through his. The player was linked last week with a move to Scottish also-rans Hibernian by some stupid website or other which reckoned he'd be available on a free transfer this summer; GTFC deemed it necessary to rebut this non-story; and it ended up all over the BBC and everywhere, as if it were a real story to begin with. Now Jones's Mr 15% Kevin Smith has stuck his oar in, bleating to the Grimsby Telegraph about how mean that Mr Fenty is for not wanting to break the wage structure of a club that remains technically insolvent, substantially indebted to HM Customs & Excise, and without which his client would probably have ended up playing non-League football in 2004. In explaining why Town should push the boat out to extend Jones' contract beyond the end of next season, Smith describes Jones as "a major cog in their wheel of success", showing why he pursued a career as an agent rather than one that would require him to construct a half-decent sentence.
Of more immediate concern is the matter of whether big Rob will be fit to play Town's final league game of the season against Northampton after leaving the pitch injured at Macclesfield on Saturday and more or less taking the team's hopes of promotion with him. The answer is no, he probably won't, so start writing down those play-off dates.
Ah well. If Jones leaves and Steve Mildenhall follows him, at least Town have got Alan Fettis to fill in between the sticks.
Those play-off dates don't seem to feature in the diary of Curtis Woodhouse, who is either feeling more optimistic than the Diary or will be leaving GTFC even sooner than was previously believed. The midfielder-soon-to-turn-pugilist has informed the Grimsby Telegraph: "The Northampton game will be my last match as a footballer." Good news for Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala and Ciaran Toner, but one wonders how Mr Russell Slade will take to losing his favourite central midfielder for the big semi-final against Lincoln. "It was always my intention to finish this season," adds the former King$ton Communication$ FC midfielder, who in January signed a contract committing him to the Mariners until the summer of 2007. Curt has also been doing his bit for morale at this critical moment in the season with a Mariners World interview in which he tells Town fans, and two of his team-mates, that he won't miss football one bit. Lovely.
Let us remain for the conclusion of today's Diary with Town's nouveau-riche north bank neighbours, for it was against a KCFC side that Neil Woods' cup-winning youth team ended its season on Friday night and ended it in some style, running out 4-1 winners with goals from Lewis Britteon (3) and Andy Taylor (the other one, obviously). Peter Taylor is expected at Blundell Park this afternoon waving a wad large enough to secure the services of both players and prevent such an embarrassing turn of events ever happening again.